Ric Parnell, Who Played This Is Spinal Tap's Drummer, Dead at 70

Ric Parnell – famously known for playing drummer Mick Shrimpton in the iconic mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap – had died at the age of 70. No cause of death has been reported yet. News of Parnell's passing was shared by his This Is Spinal Tap co-star, Harry Shearer, who tweeted that "Ric Parnell, our drummer in This Is Spinal Tap, passed away today. No one ever rocked harder." Needless to say, there's been an outpouring of sympathy and condolences over the loss – but ironically, the legacy of This Is Spinal Tap is also inspiring some humor in this somber time. 

One of the running gags of This Is Spinal Tap is the band's dark curse of having a line of drummers who all die in inexplicable freak accidents. Parnell's character, Mick Shrimpton, drives that point home when he dies from spontaneous combustion at the end of the film. Now with the real-life death of Ric Parnell, some This Is Spinal Tap fans are finding themselves stuck between proper etiquette in acknowledging death, and honoring the comedic legacy of the film with jokes about another Spinal Tap drummer being taken by the heavens: 

This Is Spinal Tap's faux-documentary about a fictional British heavy metal band was the directorial debut of Rob Reiner, which helped propel a new generation of comedic players forward, including Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Ed Begley Jr., Fran Drescher, Dana Carvey, Billy Crystal, Paul Shaffer, Fred Willard, and others. 

Ric Parnell was one of the actual musicians the film used, a longtime drummer with a long list of band associations – hailing from a family of musicians. Parnell was born in London, England, in 1951. Parnell was one of five children (three boys, two girls); he and his brothers all became drummers, and Ric ended up bouncing between bands like Atomic Rooster, Horse, Tritons, and other UK musical acts throughout the 1970s and early '80s. 

In 1984 Parnell found breakout fame with This Is Spinal Tap; though his character Mick Shrimpton dies at the end, Parnell continued playing the character's twin brother "Ric Shrimpton" in Spinal Tap's subsequent career as an actual band, following the movie's success. He would also be featured on the 1992 reunion album and concert tour, Break Like The Wind. Parnell would also go on to host a nightly radio show Spontaneous Combustion (obviously inspired by his role as Shrimpton) while living in Montana. 


RIP Ric Parnell. We offer condolences to his family and friends in their time of grieving.